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Phonics Learning in the Early Years

School News June 14, 2023
Phonics Learning in the Early Years

Phonics learning is integral to the EYFS curriculum taught here in WASCZ.

The primary focus of phonics instruction is to help beginner readers to see how letters are linked to sounds or phonemes so that letter-sound correspondence is formed.

Phonics learning refers to the learning of the 44 sounds in the English language.  Once these sounds are learnt and the children feel confident to use them, reading and writing becomes easy for them. The sounds of letters are only taught.  It is much later that the letter names are introduced.

Here in the kindergarten, we are dedicated to teaching from the Letters and Sounds document. This phonics programme introduces a new sound each session, the children learn how to say the sound and learn an action to go with the sound which acts as a visual cue.  The children explore and investigate which nouns start with the sound they are learning, they also practise forming and writing the letter, that represents the sound.

The sounds are taught in a specific order (not alphabetically) so that children can learn to orally blend the sounds in the second and third learning sessions. This means that the children are reading and writing words in English almost immediately.

The first three sounds learnt are s  a  t – this means that after three lessons the children can read and write the words, as, at and sat.  Each session adds more sounds, and more words can be read and written.

Once the first 26 single letter sounds have been taught.  Children will be asked to blend three sounds together to read CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant). There are five vowels in English (a, e, i, o, u) and the consonants are all the other letters. Children will be expected to segment or stretch a CVC word to discover which sounds are in it.  Children will then feel confident to identify the sounds with their correct letters and can have a go at writing them. It is at this stage that children will be shown how to rhyme CVC, often by saying the phrase, “they rhyme they sound the same at the end”.  They will be encouraged to orally blend and segment these rhymes – pat, mat, hat, cat, sat, making a rhyming string.

The next step will be to ask children to write short phrases that contain the sounds they know  e.g. I am hot.  The use of capital letters and full stops will be introduced and taught at this stage.

A Phonics lesson should contain four sections:

Review of all sounds taught so far.

Introduction of the new sound to learn.

Practice with the new sound and identify words that start with that sound.

Apply the new sound learnt either in reading or writing exercises.

After the children have learnt the first 26 initial sounds in the English alphabet they will begin to learn digraphs (two letters that represent one sound). The first digraphs learnt are sh, ch, th, ng, ai, ee.

Later the children will be introduced to trigraphs (three letters that represent one sound), such as igh, ear, ure and so on.

This programme has been found to be extremely effective in teaching young children to read.  It is delivered in a fast and pacy way and has been proven to help children read at an early age.

Alongside the teaching of letter sounds, tricky words are taught.  Tricky words, sometimes referred to as keywords are those words that can not be phonically decoded (read by using sound knowledge). These words, such as, I, to, go, no, the, into - have to be learnt from memory.  These are often referred to as ‘the red words’ as you stop using your phonics to read them.

It is good practice to read with children daily and this will lay a firm foundation for a successful life in education.